ID Thieves Love Kids
Child identity theft
September 21st, 2009 Phillip Britt
Any parent can talk about how much quicker their children learn the newest technology than adults do. Today’s youngsters can set up social networking sites, install programs and run multimedia while some of their parents still have 12:00 flashing on their VCRs and DVD players.
Child Identity Theft
But as much as children know about technology, they are largely unschooled in the dangers of identity theft. They tend to be too trusting of the world at large, put too much information out on social networking sites and are too trusting of e-mails from unknown sources.
Additionally, while parents may routinely check their own credit information, they give little thought to checking similar reports of their children, particularly if the children have yet to enter the workforce. But if a Social Security number is compromised, fraudsters could conduct numerous financial activities in the child’s name.
According to a study conducted last year by Javelin Strategy & Research for Debix:
• Five percent of the children enrolled in the Debix Identity Theft Protection Network had one or more credit reports using their Social Security number. Three percent were found to be actual victims of child identity theft, while 2 percent were victims of credit contamination.
• Among the 5 percent, the children had on average $12,779 in fraudulent or wrongly assigned debt.
• While the study found that children were more likely to find problems in their credit histories as they aged, 12 percent of those with problems were age 5 and under.
• One child had seven identities listed under his SSN, with several thousand dollars in medical bills, apartment rentals, and credit accounts in collections; another child’s SSN was associated with over $325,000 in debt.
So the threat is very real. But there are also several common sense steps parents can take. The Federal Trade Commission offers the following tips for parents seeking to protect the identity of their children:
Talk, and talk often. Make sure your children know what information should be private and what information might be appropriate for sharing. When they give out their personal information, they give up control of who can reach them, whether it’s with a marketing message or something more personal. On the other hand, sharing some personal information may allow them to participate in certain activities or to get e-mails about promotions and events they’re interested in.
Additionally, remind children that once they post information online, they can’t take it back. Even if they delete the information from a site, older versions may exist on other people’s computers and be circulated online.
Know what web sites your children go to. Talk with them about the sites they like to visit. Do some exploring on your own to get to know how the sites work and what privacy settings and controls they offer.
Make agreements. Be sure your children know what your family has decided is okay — and not okay — to divulge online. Consider writing down a list of the rules your family has agreed on and posting them where everyone can see them. Let your children know you’ll keep an eye on the sites they visit. One option is to check your browser history and temporary files, though keep in mind that older children may know how to delete these files or keep them from getting recorded. If a parent wants more controls, check to see what privacy settings your browser offers or consider software that offers a range of controls.
Know how your children get online. They may get online using your family computer or someone else’s, as well as through cell phones and game consoles. Know what limits you can place on your child’s cell phone — some companies have plans that limit downloads, Internet access, and texting on cell phones; other plans allow kids to use those features at certain times of day. Check out what parental controls are available on the gaming consoles children use as well.
Remember. Children are frequent targets of identity thieves. But, with some effort, you can assist your child in staying safe.